Melt and Pour Soap-Making: the perfect DIY Holiday project

glycerin soap Looking for a really easy, inexpensive project that will produce a gift nearly everyone loves? Try your hand at melt & pour glycerin soap making. This is distinct from ‘true’ hot process and natural cold process soap-making, which is much more involved and more time consuming. In M&P soaps, you can work on a simple project that will take you a short amount of time. Take advantage of the relative ease and get creative! There are lots of really interesting M&P soapers on Etsy from whom to get some inspiration.  A lot of the fun comes from the molds you choose to use, the scents you add, the addition of botanicals in a clear glaze top, or the creation of fun and interesting designs such as this bacon and egg soap set.

One of the best parts of soap making is the inclusion of natural fragrance. My preference is always to use pure essential oils, which are the natural product of extracting (via steam distillation) the volatile oils from plants. I find synthetic fragrance oils to be cloying and irritating, and often unhealthy because of the addition of chemical fragrance fixatives such as “pthalates”, which have shown endocrine disruption in laboratory testing with mice.

The first step is finding Melt and Pour soap base. And then it’s as simple as that…you melt it and pour it into molds! I prefer to use organic soap base, such as Stephenson’s, as many bases are weighed down with more questionable ingredients such as sulfates, or often irritating chemical foaming agents.

organic melt and pour soap base

organic melt and pour soap base from

You will want to use a stainless steel (not aluminum) or enamel coated pot. Put on a double boiler for best results, but I’ve also done fine melting the base over the lowest possible stove-top setting. Just be sure not to walk away too long, as you don’t want the soap to come to a boil.

Stirring melt and pour soap base

Stirring melt and pour soap base

DIY Directions:
1. Melt 2 lb block over low heat. (Stir with a utensil designated for soap making.)
2. Once melted, remove from heat.

Adding essential oil blend to melted soap base

Adding essential oil blend

3. Add fragrance to desired strength. I prefer about 60 – 100 drops essential oil to 2 lbs soap. If you add too much fragrance it will affect the quality of the soap.

Added colorant to soap base

Add colorant to soap base

4. Add some colorant if desired. You can buy soap chips from suppliers or use natural powdered herbs such as turmeric, which creates a lovely butter to deep orange color, depending on how much you use. You can also try regular old food coloring.  Stir well until blended.
4. Pour into molds and allow to cool completely before popping out (an hour or two).
5. Wrap in cellophane to protect the glycerin, which is prone to “sweating” when exposed to humidity. I prefer to shrink wrap soaps, as they are best protected this way!

1. Melt clear base in one pot and an opaque base in another. Add fragrance to both when removed from heat.

soap poured into molds

2. Pour a thin, clear layer into your molds and sprinkle some herbs or blossoms on top (lotus, chamomile, calendula, and rose, or lemongrass are all nice choices)
3. Once that is somewhat cooled down, pour the opaque base into the mold.

white base being poured into mold

white base being poured into mold

4. Cool, pop out of molds, and wrap in cellophane.

soap wrapped in celophane

From Nature with Love (melt and pour soap, essential oils, fragrance oils)
Essential Wholesale (essential oils)
Bramble Berry Soap Soap Making Supplies (everything, including molds)
Sun Feather Natural Soap Company (everything, including molds)
organic orange soap scented with cardamom and other spices

Post written by Sarah Powell, proprietor of natural bath, body, and herbal product business, Lilith’s Apothecary.

Candlemaking 101: it’s easier than you might think!

candles cooling Despite all my home, bath & body “craftiness”, for years I put off candle making because I remembered my childhood forays into the hobby, which resulted in ruined pots, crayons melted all over the kitchen, and lots of paraffin mess. Recently, I discovered that making candles, particularly with soy wax, is remarkably easy. First of all, soy wax is washable with soap and water. Yeah! So the clean up is insanely easy. You can harden it a bit by melting in some stearic acid, but generally, I find that soy wax, when used in containers (rather than using molds), seems to do just fine. 

What you need:

Pour Pot
Saucepan to use as a double boiler w/ the pour pot
1 oz essential oil or essential oil blend
1.5 lb. soy candle wax
tabbed wicks (with metal bottom)
soap/candle thermometer
wooden stick for stirring
Containers such as thick, heat proof glass, aluminum tins, tea cups, ceramic containers, etc

The steps are the same for any kind of container. If you want to experiment with different waxes or even try molds, you can go to any number of good blogs & candle-making sites, including those who sell supplies. Candlewic, for example, is a local company right up in Quakertown, Bucks County.

candle wax Step 1: Measure out 1.5 lbs of wax into your pour pot using a reliable scale.  Scales are available on candle, soaping, and cosmetic sites. Even a postal scale would work since your measurements do not have to be too finite.

double boiler with candle pour pot Step 2: Place the pour pot in a saucepan filled 1/3 of the way with water and bring water to a boil. Stir the wax with a wooden stick/ chopstick until the wax melts completely.  The melting point of soy wax is generally 125 degrees.  The final temp of fully melted wax may be upwards of 160-180 degrees.

measuring melted candle wax Step 3: When wax is melted, measure the temperature of the wax with the thermometer. You will need the melted wax to cool a bit before you reach the best pour temp range of 110 – 140 degrees.

pouring essential oil into melted candle wax Step 4: Once the pour temp is reached, add the 1 oz of essential oil. It is best to use essential oils rather than fragrance oils because most fragrance oils contain pthalates, which should be avoided.  Additionally, because fragrance oils are synthetic, they can cause headaches for many people. Once you are around pure essential oils more and more, you’ll find you can tolerate synthetic fragrances less and less (that would be me!). When you use a pure essential oil, you are also getting the ‘true’ botanical volatile oil in a highly concentrated form, and therefore, you will also get its aromatherapeutic benefit whenever you use the candle. Some ideas for essential oils to use include eucalyptus-mint (stimulating, clarifying, awakening), Lavender (calming, relaxing, soothing, Sweet Orange (uplifting, comforting), Cedarwood-sage (grounding, purifying, cleansing), or any other essential oil you happen to love.

pouring candle wax into containers Step 5: Stir the essential oil into the wax and then pour wax into the containers.  I have come across recommendations to heat the containers first with a hair dryer and my assumption is that this may prevent cracking in case the wax is far hotter than the container can handle. I have never had a problem with this, though, and usually skip this step, particularly with aluminum tins.

putting wick into candleStep 6: Once all the wax is poured, quickly insert the tabbed wick into the center.

candles cooling Step 7: Allow candles to cool for several hours and then trim the wicks and feel free to use!

I hope you enjoy!

Candlewic (candle supplies, including containers, wicks, wax, and colorant, if desired)
Essential Wholesale (essential oils)
Specialty Bottle (glass candle containers)

Sarah Powell is proprietor of Lilith’s Apothecary, a natural bath, body, and tea business and also blogs at

A Meeting in July (minutes)

First of all, I’d like to introduce myself in case there’s anyone reading who didn’t make it to the team meeting this month…
My name is Liza James and I am the owner and proprietor (read: designer) of Altered States Clothing.
This was my FIRST team meeting, and I am thrilled and excited to be a part of this growing community.

Here’s me (the blond with no face):

On to business.
Here are a few things we’d like you all to follow up on (or take note of) when you have the time:
~ Please stop by Mew Gallery and pick up flyers to pass around the city! We need to promote!
~ send your upcoming news re shows, etc to artiseverywhere (please comment if this is an email address or an IM name? I’m a little confused).
~ Take a look at the “how to get involved” page (website? Please comment with link).
~ If you know any musicians (acoustic or mild) who’d be interested in playing during a Craftadelphia show, pass on their info! Our current possibilities are:
– Allison’t fiance brian plays keyboard.
– Sondra’s roommate steve sings and plays guitar.
– Liza is friends with young gene buffalo.
Each of these people will follow up with their respective friends and report back.
~ Beth is putting the group list-serve together, we need to draft and
send out a press release soon for Craftadelphia.

Learning events we’ll be setting up (and the folks who will be leading):

Liza has started a google calendar called “Etsy Philly Team”. Please search this calendar and use it! It will be invaluable as we gear up to schedule events.
Also, we will need to discuss dates for the following:

~ Class on crochet basics (Angela – 3d toys and creatures) this will be held at the Cheltenham Art Center in August or September.
~ Marketing event at Nicole Carey’s place in S. Philly. Draw, paint, and print flyers to color, copy and distribute. Liza will lead.
~ Computer/Web tutorial at Mary’s place in Fishtown, lead by Lynn and Liza
~ Meet and greet at Allison’s place in W. Philly
~ Swap-a-rama at Beth’s place in S. Philly
~ Paper making with Lynn at Cheltenham Art Center (other suggestions?) We need old blenders… keep an eye out when thrifting!
~ Sewing machine basics and hand-sewing with Amber and Liza (September) at Amber’s?

Suzanne offered to host an event at her day camp in Bensalem. This
can be a retreat with skill swaps (we could do the paper making class
here, for example). They have pool, lake and plenty of outdoor space. – we were thinking about holding this event sometime on labor day weekend. How does August 31st sound?

We’d still like to learn:
~ knitting basics
~ gocco printing
~ screen printing

Selling events we can participate in:
~ DesignPhiladelphia suggested by Suzanne. Ruth will follow up w/ Beth Van Why.
~ Allison’s (bijoux by) neighborhood holds a porch sale in the fall (Powelton Village). It’s $20 to participate. She’ll tell us more about it when she finds out.
~ Amber mentioned an event/ art sale/ craft sale that tours around
from bar to bar: franks, 700 club, etc. Amber, can you find a link for this, or more info?
~ Open Studio tours: registration may have passed but keep it on the radar – we can pick one member and host a group event at their studio or house. The fee is $80 and they do a nice job promoting this event.

Places to research for sales events:

~ Eastern State Penitentiary
~ Studio 34 across from clark park, near the green line cafe.
~ Jamaican Jerk Hut has a nice yard
~ Zot (society hill) has a FABULOUS space… Liza will look into this.

Suggestions for Promoting US, and YOU!
~ Check out a.viary, a user-friendly imaging software currently in beta.
~ Liza and Lynn will be designing a few “team images” (avatars, buttons, etc) to appeal to both male and female sellers and buyers.
~ update your shop info to include info on the team and Craftadelphia
~ CVS sells folding tables for about $20 if you need one for sales events.
~ credit card sales: pro pay costs $30/yr. Recommended by Grace. some people (not in our group) also use cell phones.
~ If you know anyone at a media organization send their email address to with “mailing list” in the subject line. If you know the person well, we could invite them to an event.
~ Do you have a blog or website? Facebook account? Myspace? Promote the team! Post buttons leading to our blog, post about our events, and leave a comment here with your links, so that Liza can include them whenever your name is mentioned!

A few more notes:

~ Sondra is friends w/ coordinator of the Boston Etsy team. We may
try to connect with her to brainstorm team management.
~ Some teams (chicago, brooklyn) add a “teams” image when posting new items on etsy,
Let’s try to do this too. Watch for avatars and buttons from Lynn and Liza in the days to come.
~ Liza’s going to take a look at our website and make recommendations.
~ Bring swap materials to the monthly meetings (3rd
Friday of each month) to share.


I think that’s everything… please, please comment… your input as members of the Philly Etsy team is invaluable!

Hugs and sauerkraut,